Skip to comments.So-Called Paycheck Fairness Act Would Allow Government to Second-Guess Private Markets
Posted on 06/10/2012 7:57:59 AM PDT by Kaslin
Back in 2010, I cited the superb work of Christina Hoff Summers as she explained that we should let markets determine wages rather than giving that power to a bunch of bean-counting bureaucrats.
She wrote that article because leftists at the time were pushing a so-called Paycheck Fairness Act that would have given the government powers to second guess compensation levels produced by the private marketplace.
For all intents and purposes, proponents were arguing that employers were deliberately and systematically sacrificing profits by paying men more than they were worth (which is the unavoidable flip side of arguing that women were paid less than they were worth).
Well, bad ideas never die and the Senate recently took up this statist proposal.
Thats the bad news. The good news is that it didnt get enough votes to overcome a procedural objection.
Writing for U.S. News & World Report, Christina Hoff Summers explains why we should be happy about that result.
Groups like the National Organization for Women insist that women are being cheated out of 24 percent of their salary. The pay equity bill is driven by indignation at this supposed injustice. Yet no competent labor economist takes the NOW perspective seriously. An analysis of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers, commissioned by the Labor Department, found that the so-called wage gap is mostly, and perhaps entirely, an artifact of the different choices men and women makedifferent fields of study, different professions, different balances between home and work. The misnamed Paycheck Fairness Act is a special-interest bill for litigators and aggrieved womens groups. A core provision would encourage class-action lawsuits and force defendants to settle under threat of uncapped punitive damages. Employers would be liable not only for intentional discrimination (banned long ago) but for the lingering effects of past discrimination. What does that mean? Employers have no idea. Census data from 2008 show that single, childless women in their 20s now earn 8 percent more on average than their male counterparts in metropolitan areas.
At the risk of sounding extreme (perish the thought), let me take Ms. Summers argument one step farther. Yes, it would be costly and inefficient to let trial lawyers and bureaucrats go after private companies for private compensation decisions.
But whats really at stake is whether we want resources to be allocated by market forces instead of political edicts.
This should be a no-brainer. If we look at the failure of central planning in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, a fundamental problem was that government officials even assuming intelligence and good intentions did not have the knowledge needed to make decisions on prices.
And in the absence of a functioning price system, resources get misallocated and growth suffers. So you can imagine the potential damage of giving politicians, bureaucrats, and courts the ability to act as central planners for the wage system.
But that didnt stop the economic illiterates in Washington from pushing a vote in the Senate.
Heres some of what Steve Chapman wrote for the Washington Examiner.
President Barack Obama said it would merely mandate equal pay for equal work. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada warned beforehand that failing to pass the bill would send the message to little girls across the country that their work is less valuable because they happened to be born female. This is a myth resting on a deception. The gap reflects many benign factors stemming from the choices voluntarily made by women and men. Women, on average, work fewer hours and are more likely than men to take time off for family duties. A 2009 report commissioned by the U.S. Labor Department concluded that such factors account for a major portion and, possibly, almost all of the raw gender wage gap. The gender gap shrinks to between 8 percent and 0 percent when the study incorporates such measures as work experience, career breaks and part-time work, Baruch College economist June ONeill has written. What the alleged gender pay gap reflects is the interaction of supply and demand in a competitive labor market. Even in a slow economy, companies that mistreat women can expect to lose them to rival employers.
Regular readers know that Im very critical of Republicans for their propensity to do the wrong thing, particularly since they presumably know better.
But I also believe in giving praise when its warranted. Thats why Ive written nice things about Bill Clinton and also why I praised House Republicans for supporting entitlement reform.
Well, heres a case where a very bad idea was blocked because every single GOPer in the Senate held firm and voted for economic rationality. Those Senate Republicans did the right thing and prevailed, just as they were victorious when they did the right thing on taxes a couple of years ago.
Mitt Romney, on the other hand, refused to take a position on the issue, showing that he is trying very hard to be the Richard Nixon of 2012.
Great, now let's get rid of all other forms of employment "non-discrimination" and preferences. Rational economic actors will hire and fire based on rational, economic considerations. Those who are not rational will be driven out by a FREE market, if one exists.
Years ago....as a contractor working for the Air Force....we had this episode to occur with our company. We had a group of sixty contractors at one base overseas. The company hired this wife of a NCO from the base, and within three months....she started to ask people about their salaries and compensation package. When you get hired, there is this briefing where you are told by HR to never ask, and never answer these questions.
Well...she found five people who gave her answers, and discovered there were at least five different housing level payments. She was at the lowest level, and turned this into a huge issue. In the end....the company decided to get rid of three of the five levels....and she basically made no advancement on her agenda. Sadly, about half of the employees lost an average of $150 to $200 a month because of the game. For the next year, she was one of the most disliked and despised employees within the company. When she left....there was no going-away lunch for her.
The minute that you start to question levels of pay and compensation....you open up a can of worms. If this were to pass....lawyers could anticipate another 200k cases a year to profit off of....and a quarter of those cases would be absolute losses in the court system. I could predict that companies might go entirely toward hiring men only....just because of the tension this will generate in the years to come.
If women were really paid 30% or whatever amount, less than men for the same job, why would any employer hire a man? All businesses would want to hire only women, right?
Pay discrimination between men and women is already banned by the Equal Pay Act of 1963. If this issue was really a major problem, then Obama and Eric Holder would have the Justice Department filing some high profile lawsuits on the subject. The law is already in place. There’s no need to pass yet another law on the subject of pay discrimination.
Paycheck Fairness Act = Yet another way for lefty politicians to funnel more money to their union buddies (especially educators) and other preferred special interest groups who in turn support them politically.